POCOMOKE – Education officials honored a Pocomoke High School icon this month as he prepares to retire.
David Byrd, the well-known athletic director and physical education teacher at Pocomoke High School (PHS), will retire from teaching in June after a 43-year career. He will, however, continue to work part time as the school’s athletic director.
Superintendent Lou Taylor recognized Byrd at this month’s meeting of the Worcester County Board of Education, in advance of this weekend’s Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) banquet, at which Byrd will be honored.
“He has been selected by his peers as the District 8 Athletic Director of the Year,” Taylor said. “It’s a great honor for me to say he’s my friend, my colleague, my mentor. He’s done a lot for Worcester County Public Schools.”
Byrd, a graduate of Pocomoke High School and Salisbury University, started his career as a physical education teacher at Berlin Middle School in 1974. He said he’d always enjoyed athletics and decided as a student at PHS that teaching gym would be an enjoyable way to make a living.
That proved true in his first two years at Berlin Middle.
“It was fun,” he said.
“I met a lot of good people there.”
Nevertheless he was thrilled to get transferred to PHS in the mid-1970s. In 1981, he took over as the school’s athletic director.
“They wanted someone who was in the phys. ed. department,” he said. “It was a natural transition.”
During his more than three decades as the athletic director at PHS, Byrd has learned to manage all the school’s sports and has even coached most of them.
“As the athletic director at a small school you have to step up when needed,” he said.
Byrd is also known throughout the community — and state — for his many years as basketball coach at PHS. Byrd, who led the boys’ basketball team during its 2002 state championship season, retired from coaching in 2003 when his son graduated from high school.
Taylor said Byrd continued to be known throughout Maryland and was currently a member of the executive council for MPSSAA and the board of controls for the Bayside Athletic Conference. He said Byrd had been president of MPSSAA from 2006-2008 and had served on various MPSSAA committees through the years.
“Having somebody from Worcester County to make sure our schools are treated fairly is important,” Taylor said.
He praised Byrd for the various leadership roles he’s held both locally and regionally.
“Everybody looks up to him,” Taylor said.
Byrd admits he stays busy coordinating all of the school’s sports teams.
“It’s a big time job,” he said. “As an athletic director you have to be global. With coaching you just look at your sport.”
Byrd said it was quite a challenge to balance coaching, teaching and being athletic director. Though he’s already retired from coaching, he continues to have to balance the amount of paperwork that comes with teaching and his duties as athletic director. He’s hoping by transitioning out of the athletic director position gradually he’ll be able to train his successor to handle the responsibility.
“It’s a whole lot easier of a transition that way,” he said.
Byrd is also happy to stay active at the school on a part-time basis.
“I’ll still be around kids,” he said. “That’s important. It keeps you young and it keeps you involved.”
With retirement, he’s looking forward to having more free time to spend with his grandchildren, the three eldest of which are already active in sports. He’s confident the athletes from Pocomoke High School will continue to turn heads after his departure.
“We’re always a power in the state,” he said. The school now boasts 33 state championships. “Winning breeds winning. Sometimes coaches change but the program is still there.”
He said much of the school’s success came from a supportive community.
“It’s a small local high school community,” he said. “There’s something very unique about that.”
Taylor said he was just glad Byrd would continue to have a presence, albeit part-time, at PHS.
“He is much needed not only for Pocomoke High School but for Worcester County Public Schools,” Taylor said. “He is a model we all look up to.”